Brief Encounter is a 1945 British romantic drama film directed by David Lean from a screenplay written by Noël Coward, based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. (Another on screen adaptation was in 1974, a TV movie of the same name starring Richard Burton and Sophia Loren.)
It stars Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, and Joyce Carey. The film follows a passionate extramarital affair in England shortly before WWII. The protagonist is Laura, a married woman with children, whose conventional life becomes increasingly complicated following a chance meeting at a railway station with a married stranger with whom she subsequently falls in love.
Brief Encounter premiered in London on 13 November 1945, and was theatrically released on 25 November to widespread critical acclaim. It received three nominations at the 19th Academy Awards, Best Director, Best Actress (for Celia Johnson), and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The film is widely cited by film critics, historians, and scholars as one of the greatest films of all time. In 1999, the British Film Institute ranked it as the second-greatest British film of all time. In 2017, a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers, and critics for Time Out had it ranked the 12th-best British film ever.
Laura Jesson(Celia Johnson), a respectable middle-class British woman in an affectionate but rather dull marriage, tells her story while sitting at home with her husband, imagining that she is confessing her affair to him.
Laura, like many women of her class at the time, goes to a nearby town every Thursday for shopping and to the cinema for a matinée. Returning from one such excursion to Milford, while waiting in the railway station's refreshment room, she
meets another passenger Alec Harvey(Trevor Howard), an idealistic general practitioner who also works one day a week as a consultant at the local hospital, who solicitously removes a piece of grit from her eye.
The two accidentally meet again outside Boots the Chemist, and then on a third meeting share a table at lunch, then, both having free time, go to an afternoon performance at the Palladium Cinema. Both married with children, they are soon troubled to find their innocent and casual relationship developing into something deeper, approaching infidelity.
For a while, they meet openly, until they run into friends of Laura's, and the perceived need to deceive others arises. The second lie comes more easily. They eventually go to a flat belonging to Stephen, a friend of Alec's and a fellow doctor, but are interrupted by Stephen's unexpected and judgmental return. Laura, humiliated and ashamed, runs down the back stairs and into the streets. She walks and walks, and sits on a bench for hours, smoking, until a concerned policeman encourages her to get in out of the cold. She arrives at the station just in time to take the last train home.
The recent turn of events makes the couple realise that an affair or a future together is impossible. Understanding the temptation and not wishing to hurt their families, they agree to part. Alec has been offered a job in Johannesburg, South Africa, where his brother lives.
Their final meeting occurs in the railway station refreshment room, now seen for a second time with the poignant perspective of their story. As they await a heart-rending final parting, Dolly Messiter, a talkative acquaintance of Laura's, invites herself to join them and begins chattering away, oblivious to the couple's inner misery.
As they realise that they have been robbed of the chance for a final goodbye, Alec's train arrives. With Dolly still chattering, Alec departs without the passionate farewell for which they both long. After shaking Dolly's hand, he discreetly squeezes Laura on the shoulder and leaves. Laura waits for a moment, anxiously hoping that Alec will walk back into the refreshment room, but he does not. As the train is heard pulling away, Laura is galvanised by emotion, and hearing an approaching express train, suddenly dashes out to the platform. The lights of the train flash across her face as she conquers a suicidal impulse. She then returns home to her family.
Laura's kind and patient husband, Fred, shows that he has noticed her distance in the past few weeks, although if he has guessed the reason is not clear. He thanks her for coming back to him. She cries in his embrace.
The shooting of the film took place in early 1945 before the Second World War had finished. Much of the film was shot at Carnforth railway station in Lancashire, then a junction on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. As well as a busy station being necessary for the plot, it was located far enough away from major cities to avoid the blackout for film purposes, but some of the urban scenes were shot in London or at Denham or Beaconsfield near Denham Studios where the film was made.
Excerpts from Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 recur throughout the film, played by the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Muir Mathieson with pianist Eileen Joyce. There is also a scene in a tea room where a salon orchestra plays the Spanish Dance No. 5 (Bolero) by Moritz Moszkowski.
The film was a great success in the UK and the 21st most popular film at the British box office in 1946. And it was voted one of the 10 greatest films ever made in two separate 1952 critics' polls. In 1999 the film was given the #2 slot on the British Film Institute's BFI Top 100 British films.
Today, the film is widely praised for its black-and-white photography and the mood created by the steam-age railway setting, both of which were particular to the original David Lean version.
Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson
Trevor Howard as Dr Alec Harvey
Brideshead Revisited is a 2008 British drama film directed by Julian Jarrold based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh, which previously had been adapted in 1981 as the television serial Brideshead Revisited.
Directed by: Julian Jarrold
Music: Adrian Johnston
Cinematography: Jess Hall
Running time: 133 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
Although he aspires to become an artist, middle-class Charles Ryder reads history at the University of Oxford, where he befriends the flamboyant and wealthy Lord Sebastian Flyte. Sebastian's mother, Lady Marchmain, strongly disapproves of Sebastian's lifestyle, especially his heavy drinking. When Sebastian takes Charles home to visit his nanny, Charles is enthralled by the grandeur of the Marchmain family estate, known as Brideshead, and he is entranced by its residents, including the devout Roman Catholic Lady Marchmain and her other children, Sebastian's elder brother Bridey and his sisters Julia and Cordelia.
When Lord Marchmain invites Sebastian and Julia to visit him and his mistress Cara in Venice, Lady Marchmain encourages Charles to go with them in the hope that he can act as a positive influence on her son. Increasingly interested in Julia, Charles surreptitiously kisses her in a dark alley, unaware that Sebastian can see them from the other side of a canal. Jealous of his attention to his sister, Sebastian sets out to end their friendship, and on their return to Britain, Lady Marchmain makes it clear that Charles cannot marry Julia since he professes to be an atheist.
Sebastian's mother, concerned about his increasing alcoholism, cancels his allowance. During a visit to Brideshead, Ryder gives Sebastian money, which he uses to buy alcohol. Later that day, at a party given by the family, Charles is shocked when Lady Marchmain announces that the celebration is in honor of Julia's engagement to Canadian business man Rex Mottram. Sebastian arrives at the party late and improperly dressed. After a scene that is very embarrassing to Lady Marchmain, Sebastian flees the party, and Lady Marchmain privately dresses down Charles because he gave Sebastian money, and tells him that he is no longer welcome at Brideshead. Sebastian flees to Morocco. Four years elapse.
Lady Marchmain has become terminally ill. She asks Charles to find Sebastian and bring him home. Charles travels to Morocco, but Sebastian could not return even if he wanted to, which he clearly does not. He is in the hospital with fluid in one of his lungs, and the doctor warns Charles that Sebastian is too ill to travel.
More time elapses. Julia marries Rex, and Charles marries as well, and becomes successful as an artist.
Charles is reunited with Julia on an ocean liner travelling to Britain from New York. They immediately realise they are still in love and decide to leave their respective spouses and live together. Charles and Julia return to Brideshead, where Charles plans on asking Rex to step aside so he and Julia can be together. Rex first implies he will never let Julia go, and accuses Charles of just wanting the estate. However, he then relents and agrees to release her in exchange for two of Charles's paintings, which are now viewed as a good investment. He also reveals that he converted to Catholicism to get Julia, and he disdains Charles for not having been willing to do the same. Julia overhears all of this, is shocked and angered, feeling like bartered goods. Their arrangements made, Charles and Julia prepare to leave Brideshead.
Just as they are driving out, however, they pass a small caravan of cars that are arriving: Lord Marchmain is terminally ill, and has returned with Cara so he can spend his final days in his home. On his deathbed Lord Marchmain, who hitherto has not wanted Catholicism, regains his faith and dies reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. Deeply affected by her father's transformation, Julia decides she cannot relinquish her own faith to marry Charles, and the two sadly part.
Several years later, the Second World War is in process. Charles, now a disillusioned army captain, finds himself once again at Brideshead, this time in its capacity as a military base. A corporal tells him Julia is serving in the reserves and that her elder brother, Bridey, died during the Blitz. We also learn that he is alone – he has no girlfriend or wife. In the movie's final scene, Charles visits the family chapel, where he finds a single lit candle. He dips his hand into holy water and moves to snuff out a candle that is almost out of wax. However, he then reconsiders, and leaves the flame to burn.
Title: Brideshead Revisited
Release time: 1981
Written by Evelyn Waugh (novel)
Derek Granger et al. (script)
Directed by Charles Sturridge, Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s): English
No. of series: 1
No. of episodes:11
Brideshead Revisited is a 1981 British television serial starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. It was produced by Granada Television for broadcast by the ITV network. Most of the serial was directed by Charles Sturridge; a few sequences were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. The serial is an adaptation of the novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh. It follows, from the 1920s to the early 1940s, the life and romances of the protagonist Charles Ryder—including his friendship with the Flytes, a family of wealthy English Catholics who live in a palatial mansion called Brideshead Castle.
The 11-episode serial premiered on ITV in the UK on 12 October 1981 and The Telegraph listed it at number 1 in its list of the greatest television adaptations, stating that "Brideshead Revisited is television's greatest literary adaptation, bar none. It's utterly faithful to Evelyn Waugh's novel yet it's somehow more than that, too."
Plot episode by episode:
Episode 1:"Et in Arcadia Ego"
In the spring of 1943, disillusioned Army captain Charles Ryder is moving his company to a new Brigade Headquarters at a secret location he discovers is Brideshead, once home to the Marchmain family and the scene of both pleasant and anguished visits for the younger Charles. Seeing the house for the first time in several years prompts a recollection of Charles' first meeting with Lord Sebastian Flyte, the Marchmains' younger son, at Oxford University in 1922, and the rest of the narrative flashes back to that time forward. At Oxford, two young men quickly bond and, although his cousin warns him to avoid Sebastian and his inner circle of friends, Charles is fascinated by them, particularly the flamboyant and openly gay aesthete Anthony Blanche. Short on funds, Charles finds himself fitfully spending the summer holidays in London with his indifferent and rigid father Edward until an urgent message from Sebastian sends him to Brideshead, where Charles is introduced to a world of wealth and privilege dominated by a powerful devotion to Catholicism.
Episode 2: "Home and Abroad"
At Brideshead, Charles is introduced to Sebastian's younger sisters Julia and Cordelia and his older brother Brideshead ('Bridey'). The two young men decide to accept an invitation to Venice extended by Sebastian's father, Lord Marchmain, who lives there with his mistress Cara.
Episode 3: "The Bleak Light of Day"
Back at Oxford, Sebastian learns his mother has arranged for him to be tutored - and carefully supervised - by Mr. Samgrass. Lady Marchmain visits the university and implores Charles to be a good influence on her rowdy son. Invited to a charity ball in London by Julia, Charles and Sebastian escape to a seedy nightclub in Soho. After a drunken Sebastian crashes their car, the political and social power of ambitious MP Rex Mottram and Mr. Samgrass result in Sebastian being let off with only a fine.
Episode 4: "Sebastian Against the World"
Sebastian's rapid descent into alcoholism, which he refers to as dipsomania, leads him into constant trouble, despite the ever-watchful eye of Mr. Samgrass. During Easter holiday at Brideshead, Charles tries to reason with a constantly inebriated Sebastian, who accuses him of being a spy for Lady Marchmain. Sebastian's failure to reform leads to his dismissal from Oxford, and a bereft Charles returns to London to ask his father permission to leave the university in order to study art abroad.
Episode 5: "A Blow Upon a Bruise"
Charles returns from his art studies in Paris and journeys to Brideshead for the 1925 New Year's celebration. Sebastian has returned from an excursion to the Levant with Mr. Samgrass, but photographs of the holiday and comments made by the two clearly indicate Sebastian frequently went off on his own to satisfy his hedonistic needs. Sebastian agrees to participate in a fox hunt although he plans to make an early escape to a pub, so he asks Charles for money and his friend acquiesces. When Sebastian returns home heavily inebriated at the end of the day, a distressed Lady Marchmain questions Charles. Learning he financed Sebastian's drinking binge, she rebukes him for enabling him, and Charles leaves Brideshead, fully expecting never to return.
Episode 6: "Julia"
Charles returns to Paris, where he is visited by Rex Mottram, who is searching for Sebastian and the money he stole before he disappeared. Rex discusses the financial woes of the Marchmain family and announces he intends to marry Julia nonetheless. Lady Marchmain reluctantly consents to the marriage as long as Rex converts to Catholicism, a condition he is willing to accept. But when Bridey learns Rex has a former wife who is living, a situation the Church will not abide, he cancels the wedding, and a defiant Julia marries Rex in a Protestant ceremony her family, with the exception of Cordelia, refuses to attend.
Episode 7: "The Unseen Hook"
In May 1926, Charles returns to England to volunteer his services during the General Strike. While delivering milk in the East End, he encounters Boy Mulcaster. At a party they encounter Anthony Blanche who tells how Sebastian is living in Fez. Julia tells Charles her dying mother is anxious to make amends with her prodigal son, and he agrees to go to Morocco and bring him home. He discovers Sebastian has been living with Kurt, a German ex-soldier discharged from the French Foreign Legion after deliberately shooting himself in the foot. Sebastian is a chronic alcoholic and has been hospitalized with pneumonia. Charles finds his friend emaciated and dissipated, unwilling to follow doctor's orders, and disinclined to leave Kurt alone. Before Charles departs Morocco, he learns Lady Marchmain has died.
Episode 8: "Brideshead Deserted"
Bridey commissions Charles to paint four scenes of Marchmain House in London, which has been sold to rectify Lord Marchmain's financial difficulties, before it is demolished to make way for a block of flats. He is reunited with Cordelia, who regrets the ongoing dissolution of her family but assures Charles she continues to find strength in her faith. Cordelia recalls her mother’s reading of a Father Brown story where G. K. Chesterton’s priest catches a thief "with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread". Time passes and Charles spends two years in Mexico and Central America painting, then has an awkward reunion with his wife Celia in New York City before the two sail home. On board ship, the two discover Julia is a fellow passenger.
Episode 9: "Orphans of the Storm"
Celia is bedridden with chronic seasickness prompted by extremely rough seas, leaving Charles and Julia to become reacquainted, and the two become lovers before reaching Southampton. Back in London, at an exhibition of her husband's latest artwork, Celia implies she knows about his affair with Julia. Anthony Blanche arrives at the gallery late and invites Charles to join him for a drink in a seedy gay bar, where he criticizes his talent and paintings, and informs Charles that his affair with Lady Julia is already widely rumored. Charles and Julia depart for Brideshead, where Rex is awaiting his wife.
Episode 10: "A Twitch Upon the Thread"
Charles and Julia, awaiting their respective divorces, live together, unmarried, at Brideshead. When Bridey announces his engagement, Julia suggests he invite his fiancée to Brideshead. Bridey points out that a highly moral and staunchly Catholic woman with middle-class values would never sleep under the same roof as a couple "living in sin". Bridey's comments stir extraordinary feelings of remorse and pain in Julia, revealing her long-standing Catholic guilt to Charles.
Cordelia returns from ministering to the wounded in the Spanish Civil War with disturbing news about Sebastian's nomadic existence and steady decline over the past few years. She predicts he will die soon in the Tunisian monastery he has taken shelter in as his alcoholism consumes him.
Episode 11: "Brideshead Revisited"
In 1939, World War II is imminent. After years of self-imposed exile in Venice, the terminally ill Lord Marchmain decides to return home to die. Appalled by Bridey's choice of a wife, he announces he plans to leave Brideshead to Julia and Charles. When Bridey brings a priest to visit his very weak father and perform the last rites, Charles objects vocally, and offends Julia by harping on the question of what the sacrament actually accomplishes and what rationale there could be for performing it, especially knowing Marchmain's aversion to Catholicism. Lord Marchmain sends the priest away, then meets with his lawyers to change his will. But as Lord Marchmain weakens to the point of semi-consciousness, he finally accepts by making the sign of the Cross the absolution conditionally pronounced by the priest.
Tearfully, Julia calls off her marriage to Charles, because she does not wish "to set up a rival good to God’s". She explains to him "that if I give up this one thing I want so much, however bad I am, He won't quite despair of me in the end". Charles, who has been moved by Lord Marchmain's final re-conversion, understands, but it breaks his heart, too.
The narrative returns to Brideshead in 1944. Charles, now a believer, visits and prays in the reopened chapel, which has been closed since Lady Marchmain's death in 1926. A twitch upon the thread has brought him to the Faith. The sanctuary lamp, its symbol, burns anew.